Norton to Introduce Bill to Protect Gig Economy Workers from Discrimination
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the first female chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, announced today that she will introduce a bill to apply federal anti-discrimination protections to independent contractors. Currently, such laws apply only to traditional employees. Norton, a strong supporter of worker rights, has long been concerned about so-called employee misclassification, in which employers wrongly classify workers as independent contractors, instead of as employees, to avoid complying with, among other things, workplace anti-discrimination laws. However, Norton said that the spread of independent contractors has been ubiquitous and are of several varieties. Some set themselves up as a limited liability company, essentially a one employee small business. Increasingly, employers hire independent contractors, who are individuals who do the same work and are in the same workspace as employees, but without benefits or withholdings.
“Even before the dawn of the gig economy, we had seen an exponential increase in the use of independent contractors by employers,” Norton said. “These workers, who often do the same jobs as employees, have few of the protections granted to employees under federal anti-discrimination laws. Our anti-discrimination laws were written long before this dramatic shift in the workplace. Our laws need to catch up and change as the workforce changes. An increasing number of contractors need to be treated as their employers are treating them—as employees.”